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Salem's Lot - Stephen King

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Author: Stephen King / Genre: Horror

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    11 Reviews
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      30.12.2013 16:05
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      Effective vampire tale from Stephen King

      I seem to be reading a lot slower of late, maybe because I just don't have as much time to read as I used to. So when I picked up a long awaited Stephen King book, I pretty much assumed straight away that it was going to take me a while. This particular book comes in at just over 700 pages long, but this includes not only the story, but an introduction, afterword, two short stories and some deleted scenes that didn't make the final edit.

      Salem's Lot is one of those books I have heard mentioned plenty of times but have never really understood much other than it's about vampires. King paints a sleepy picture of a small town in Maine by the name of Jerusalem's Lot, known locally as 'salem's Lot. The childhood home of somewhat successful author Ben Mears, it is also the location of his most terrrifying memory. Up on the hill at one end of the Lot is the dreaded Marsten House, where the owner hung himself many years ago, a young Ben the unfortunate soul who found the body. However, all was not normal with the circumstances surrounding the death, and he has returned to write a story featuring the town, to rest his demons for good. The arrival of a pair of eccentric and ageing antique furniture salesmen and their purchase of the abandoned house sparks rumours galore, but when strange goings-on begin around the town, only a small number of inhabitants notice it. The unbelievable becomes the only possible options as Ben and his companions become to realise that the inhabitants are slowly but surely being converted into vampires.

      King's forte for me is in the gallejade style of storytelling. You never really know whether someone is going to be an integral part of his stories or whether they're a flash in the pan and will either be killed off or not mentioned again. This is because he ensures that we have vivid pictures of each and every character who comes into the tale, minor or major. Mears is the lead character, but equally important to the book are the group who join to combat the vampire invasion (for want of a better way of describing it). This includes local schoolteacher, a young doctor, a boy and an ageing unorthodox priest. I have barely touched the surface of King's vast repertoire, but I am fully aware of how various characters of his appear in other novels, and Father Callaghan is one who play a large part in his magnum opus, The Dark Tower. To read him here in his originality felt like a completion of a character I already had a level of understanding of with relevant chunks missing. It made me wonder how many other occasions this would happen, and whether any other 'salem's Lot characters appear in later tomes.

      Characters have been King's forte in books I have read before, but the plot development and how the story was told were of equal quality here. I found it hard to put the book down even though I couldn't rush it - for some reason I have to take in everything he writes, even though at times he uses four pages where one would clearly have sufficed. As the characters develop and the plot thickens, so does the level of detail in the vampirical element increase too. With each progressing chapter, it's spoken about a little more, as if the progression of the novel is the permission base for deeper and deeper descriptions of what is going on. As the main characters start to reveal more from their findings and their research, so does King let us in on some more of the nefarious and gruesome events that have been occurring. By the end of the book, we're well and truly deeply embroiled in a vampire tale that'll give you shivers on a regular basis.

      And it's convincing as well. King promises in the blurb to make you believe in vampires, and the way in which the characters come to the conclusion that it is really all happening and that there are logical explanations and proof for everything then kind of strings you along with it in the same fashion. King entices you in and builds your own belief along with Ben, Matt, Jimmy and Mark, and whatever happens to the other character is just as convincing. His recommendation to turn the lights low and sit in your favourite chair to read this is one I avoided - there was no way I was going to read this with the lights low at all. It took me a while, but then there is plenty of flowing description, and previous experience of King's work has taught me that to skim is to miss the important. A lot of it has little or no place other than to provide an extremely strong setting, but guaranteed the one page you skim quickly is the one containing the important information.

      The book was made into a film in 1979, and then this was remade in 2004. I've seen neither version, but I have seen a couple of vampire stills and it fitted perfectly with what I had imagined it would look like from the description. I suppose the trick with King's novels being televised is working out exactly what to leave out. That you can't leave much out is probably why the vast majority of his televised works are from his short stories. The end of the book sort of caught me by surprise. I was so deeply involved with the book that I had forgotten there were a couple of short stories and some deleted scenes in there as well, and when the ending came I was glad it finished how it did. There's closure here, which isn't always the case with novels, and while there are still questions about the fate of some of the characters, I think the impact is stronger through leaving a small number of unanswered questions. None of them are vital to the plot's completion, but they all have bearing of some sort and it's therefore allowing your imagination to do a lot of the work after the last page has been read.

      To be honest, I skimmed the deleted scenes. Nothing in there seemed of particular importance, and the book doesn't lose anything by not having them in there. The two short stories are very well written though. The first features two companions, the owner of a bar in a town near the Lot and one of the punters. A man comes in from the bitter sub zero conditions having had to leave his wife and daughter in their broken down car a few miles away. As they deduce the location as the Lot from the man's descriptions and Kind establishes that the Lot is a no-go place due to the (unmentioned) vampires, the two main characters agree to take the man back to his car to look for his family. The second short story is written as a series of letters or diary entries, set in the 19th Century as we revisit the historical line of the Boon(e) family, inhabitants of a large house near the Lot. King heavily suggests vampires without actually stating it, and having read the main book the subtle element was much more understandable than if I'd read them the other way round. Both short stories are well placed in with this book and add something extra to the atmosphere already well created in the main body of text.

      I was thoroughly impressed in the most part reading this. There's something about King's writing that has that extra special community feel to it, and while I suspect that there may not be a great deal of variety in the portrayal of a small community's battle versus something 'supernatural' , I'll carry on reading his work until I get fed up with it. Did I sit in my favourite chair with the lights turned down low? No. Did it make me believe in vampires? At times, the shivers would have me think it was possible. Luckily, this is a work of fiction...

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        09.11.2012 21:38

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        A fantastic vampire story. I enjoyed this more than Dracula.

        Out of all the Stephen King books I've read so far, this is definitely my favourite.

        The book was released in 1975 and is Kings second published novel.

        The main character is Ben Mears, he's a writer who spent his childhood in Jerusalem's Lot and is returning there after many years with the intention of writing a book about the Marsten House, in which he had a bad experience as a child, and which is supposedly haunted because of a tragedy that happened many years before involving hitman and former owner Hubert Marsten. Ben inquires about leasing the house but is told it has already been purchased by a man named Kurt Barlow and his business partner, Richard Straker. Around the same time the Marsten House is purchased, a young boy named Ralphie Glick disappears and Ben has a feeling it has something to do with the Marsten House and its new owners.

        I don't want to give anymore of the story away, but after these events the story really starts to pick up pace.
        Stephen Kings atmospheric story telling is one of a kind, there were parts in this book where things were so perfectly written that I could vividly see every little detail.

        I would recommend this book to everyone - unless you scare easily, in that case avoid at all cost! It will keep you up at night.

        P.s. Keep your curtains closed whilst reading.

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        29.08.2011 22:20
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        Vampires appear in a small town and locals are at risk.

        One of Stephen King's first novels, this was written in 1975 and as with many of his books is centred in Maine. Rumour has it that this novel was going to be called Second Coming but his wife thought it would attract all the wrong sort of reader so Jerusalem's Lot or rather Salem's Lot it was.

        This was the first of his books I ever read and as an impressionable 14 year old it made quite an impact. It is certainly a book I would recommend as while the film is not a bad representation of the book, the imagination is so much more powerful than celluloid. I should admit now that I read most Vampire books so am biased.

        The Plot.

        Twenty five years after he leaves, Ben Mears returns to his childhood home after making a career for himself as a journalist. He begins to research the history of a local house with the intention of writing a book about it. The current owner is never seen so up to date information is hard to come by.

        People start to die then come back as Vampires and it is not long before most of the town has become infected. Resistance is hard but some manage it although there is a lot for them to do. The lead up to finding out if the small group not infected were successful or not makes a fascinating read.

        Why It Was Written.

        Considering this was written 30 years before the world seemed to become obsessed with Vampires is an indication of how forward thinking Stephen King is. He enjoyed Dracula and wanted to take it a step forward by finding out if he could survive 20th Century living. He also cites the Government failings of the day as an inspiration for his work.

        Stephen King says that this is the favourite of his writings and was at one time planning a sequel but sadly this did not appear. Still Stephen King says "I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!"

        It will be easy to recommend this to others, and for those with a weakish stomach there is not the same degree of violence as in some of his other novels. You can almost imagine yourself in the Gothic surroundings so well is the description of the house.

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          22.07.2011 20:24

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          5/5

          Anything that has the 'vamp' tag on it these days i usually avoid at all costs, but seeing as Salems lot is Stephen King and was written decades ago i thought it would be safe enough. Its worth pointing out that even though this is a vampire horror story, you should think more along Dracula than Twilight. The vamps here dont have lovely white incisors and are good looking, but are in typical King fashion quite terrifying.

          The book tells the story of a man and child who, having witnessed the horrifying take over of the town Jerusalems Lot by vampires, try to return. The book mainly focuses on the actually take over than their return, the latter being only a handful of pages before the end.

          The plot of the book is well written and fast paced. Their's plenty of good characters that you'll come to like, and its keeps you guessing what happens to them. This is a gory book, which makes it all the more effective, but if you are reading King you dont need me to tell you that.

          Overall one of his best, if you havn't read this one, go buy it.

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          13.03.2011 13:59
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          The horror novel against which all horrors should be judged

          Author Ben Mears is haunted by memories of growing up in Salem's Lot, with an incident at the Marsten House being the focus of his nightmares. In an attempt to exorcise his demons, Ben has returned to the lot to write a book and finally put the Marsten House to bed. On arriving in town, Ben attempts to rent the long-empty haunted house, only to discover that it has already been sold.....and this is not the only strange occurrence in town, one child has gone missing and another has a strange, wasting, bloodless illness. What's happening in Salem's Lot, are vampires real and can Ben and his friends survive the night?

          I first read this under the duvet at the tender age of fourteen and have re-read it many, many times over the last two decades, which should give you an idea of just how much I love this book. Although only his second publication, Salem's Lot is King at his very best. There's just so much I love about this book, from the descriptive prose, to the way it gave me nightmares after reading it for the first time. This was the book that first ignited my fascination with horror novels and is the one against which all others are judged (by me at least).

          I love the way that King brings each of the characters to life, whether they are major or minor players in the story. I love the way that all of the characters are just so believable, with none of the heroes being too perfect and invulnerable. Yes some of them are caricatures, but they are caricatures of people that you would see in any small town, which adds to the sense of foreboding throughout the book. Anyone who has lived in a small town will be able to recognise someone they know, whether it be the priest that likes the bottle a little too much, or the local gossip. Because the characters are so familiar it makes caring about what happens to them extremely easy, which again pulls me into the story.

          I also love the way that the story develops, almost as soon as I start reading I find myself hooked and the pace picks up relentlessly until I reach the last page. This is a book that I genuinely find hard to put down once I start reading it, there's not one point where I don't want to know what happens next, (even though have read it countless times, I already know what happens next). And I'm never tempted to skim, flick a few pages ahead or (god forbid) take a peaky look at the final page. Out of all the hundreds of books I've read, in all the different genres, Salem's Lot is by far my favourite, and while others may find it strange, for me this book and the characters within it are almost like old friends.

          It's no spoiler, to tell you that this is a book about vampires, my copy has a picture of a vampire on the front. But to me this is about far more than just the vampire (who is fantastically written, with just the right amount of mystery about him). For me the vampire is only a part of the horror, it's hard to explain, but it was the realisation of how easily a town could die that hit me, even at the tender age of fourteen. The mark of a good horror is when it's not so fantastical that it can no longer plant the little seed of possibility into your mind. As a sane, adult, I know that vampires don't exist, but Salem's Lot is so well written that I am able to suspend belief for the time that I'm reading.

          In a world that seems full of books and films about 'good' vampires who have human emotions and can walk in daylight, Salem's Lot is a completely different kettle of fish. In this book, the rules governing vampires are of the old-fashioned variety, which means this is a far scarier read. Looking back, fourteen was probably a little too young to read it for the first time, especially as I have a very vivid imagination. There are a few points within the pages where deaths are very vividly described, but funnily enough I didn't find them as disturbing as the book as a whole. It was the premise of how easily a town could be taken over by the un-dead that really disturbed my sleep, not the descriptions of the un-dead rising.

          And so down to the crux of the matter, would I recommend Salem's Lot and if so who to? The answer is of course a resounding yes, in my eyes this is the ultimate horror novel, and by far the best of King's works. Although some of the background is a little dated (this was first published in 1975), it's still very easy to immerse yourself in the story. But as to the question of who I would recommend the book to, well I will say that fourteen is probably too young, but any horror fan of about sixteen and over should definitely add this to their reading list (why haven't you read it already). And if you're a Twilight fan, then why not read a book, where the vampires aren't all lovey-dovey. As with all of King's books, I would also recommend this to anyone who has read his Dark Tower series. In fact, I would say that in this case this is required reading, as it fills in the back story of a very important character in the later books.

          So, I'm giving Salem's Lot a blood-sucking five stars out of five, simply because it is not only my favourite King novel, but it is also my all-time favourite horror novel.

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            17.11.2010 00:01
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            Awesome modern version of Dracula so much better than the rubbish movie.

            Stephen King's modern day take on Dracula is an absolute classic which I have literally read over 30 times. The story is concerned with a writer Ben Mears returning to his hometown from when he was a child. He meets an attractive woman and there and starts a relationship with her. Meanwhile people start to disappear and strange things happen. A dog impaled on cemetery gates, a young boy murdered and his brother later dies of a mysterious illness.

            The finger of suspicion is pointed firmly at our hero although another newcomer who is opening an antiques shop is also suspected. More and more people start to go missing and eventually Ben investigates with the help of an old English teacher from the local school who he befriends.

            By the time they realize the horrifying truth it is too late, or is it? Don't want to give too much away but if you like Stephen King and have never seen this you are missing a real treat!

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              19.06.2010 13:59
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              Great vampire read for those of us who are sick of Twilight!

              With the modern day vampire tales telling of how the heroine falls in love with the vampire etc getting a bit tiresome I wanted to go back to some old school horror and who better to turn to than the master of horror himself, Stephen King!

              Stephen King is known for his gruesome and weird tales of the paranormal, supernatural and down right weird. He's an author who basis practically all of his stories in Maine and has been successfully writing for the past sixty years.

              So what's Salem's Lot about I hear you cry?
              Well for those who don't know here's a brief summary:

              Plot:
              The main character is a guy called Ben Mears who grew up in a place known as Jerusalem's Lot (Maine) and he returns to this suburb after his wife passes away as he wants to write a book about the Marsten House which always scared him as a kid, but Ben doesn't know that the new owner is going to be a vampire, known as Kurt Barlow.
              Ben's made some friends whilst he's been in town, there's the school teacher Matt and the college graduate Susan with whom he's started a relationship.

              Mr Barker pairs up with Mr Straker and the pair put on the appearance of being business men as they set up an antique shop in town but Mr Straker hasn't been seen by any of the residents and so naturally when a young boy known as Ralphie Glick disappears after his brother's death Mr Straker immediately comes under suspicion.

              As time passes the town becomes the victim to vampires who turn the place into something resembling a ghost town. Ben and Susan are naturally concerned by this and team up with Father Callahan, Dr Jimmy Cody and a young Mark Petrie. It's Mark and Susan who dare to go into the Marsten House but they don't get the result they hope for and end up in a bit of a tight spot and something dreadful happens to Susan as the vampires start to take over and Ben is forced to take matters into his own hands and make decisions that will change the town forever.

              Characters:
              Ben - protagonist, writer, hero, vampire hunter
              Susan - Ben's girlfriend, brave
              Mark - Ben's sidekick
              Mr Straker and Mr Barker - two scary dudes who buy a house and create havoc

              My Opinion:
              I've been a long time fan of King's and after being so fed up with the vampire novels that are currently 'popular' I wanted something gritty, something that went back to what vampires were supposed to be - EVIL! As usual King didn't disappoint, there were moments when I was truly scared and no other book has managed to do that so far. As King's second novel to be published this novel almost acts as a prelude to some of the greater work that is set to come.
              It's a definite must for any King fan and a definite must for anyone who wants to recaputre the glory days of vampire novels instead of the more modern day stuff that really just isn't as good as King.

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                01.02.2010 21:09
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                great horror

                Salem's Lot has to be one of the best Stephen King books out there, even if it was not one of his bestselling books.

                Most people would compare it with any old vampire story, but the mere fact that Stephen King wrote this vampire story means there's more - bloodcurdling fear, the ever-so expected twists and turns, and the elusive nature of the written word. Will you find out on the next page, the next chapter, what he's really thinking? What's really happening? Maybe, maybe not. That's what makes this book so compelling, your nose will be stuck in it until the last word.

                Ben Mears wants a quiet place to write, and to mourn the passing of his wife. He returns to his childhood home of Jerusalem's Lot (also referred to as `Salem's Lot) to get the peace and quiet he deserves, but finds something much more sinister lurking in his childhood home.

                Even though this book was written in 1975, it is still selling on the bookshelves today, and many people of many ages love it.

                It's one of the few Stephen King books that has been turned into a film.

                But of course, as everyone knows, the printed word is one thousand times better than the Hollywood film, so please don't ruin it for yourself by watching the movie first.

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                22.10.2008 17:05
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                read it now. this is great!

                Vampires. It's been done before. Oh, yes there was that rather famous one by Bram Stoker, was it Dracula??

                Um...well to do King credit he makes no secret of the fact that this is seriously based upon Stokers work, but oh, it is so much better!

                It is a wonderful book that explores some interesting issues.

                PLOT
                Ben Meyers returns to his childhood home. Loading over the town is a huge, run-down mansion. As a child he had had a devastating experience there and he hopes by returning to the house he will be able to 'tap into the atmosphere' in order to write a terrifying book. To his amazement the house has already been rented, to two very strange men.
                Disturbances soon start.

                WHAT ISSUES IT RAISES
                First we have a interesting issue. It takes a long time for people to realize something is wrong, why, because neighbors don't talk to each other, or even know each other. This is a sad symptom of many towns around the world.
                Second, belief in God. Could we have our faith tested? How many of us would pass the test?

                SUMMARY
                A really great book. Wonderful writing. Great characters. Really, really scary in places. One of his best.

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                  07.08.2008 21:27
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                  If you like Stephen King, then you'll like this

                  Salem's Lot is Stephen King's second novel written in 1975 and takes its name form the town of Jerusalem's Lot. It is the story of a quiet mundane town which is under siege from the forces of darkness.

                  The title that King originally chose for the book was 'Second Coming' but then he later decided on Jerusalem's Lot. The publishers, Doubleday, decided to shortened it to the current title, thinking that it sounded too religious.

                  The novel has been adapted into a television mini-series twice, first in 1979, starring David Soul and in 2004 starring Rob Lowe.

                  It is considered to be one of the most terrifying vampire novels ever written, and I will agree with that whole heartedly. The reason I enjoyed this book is because it scared me, whereas this normally doesn't happen. It even gave me nightmares that stopped me from reading it for a few days! Although I will probably read the book again, I have decieded to not watch the movie as I think I will find that too scary. But stupidly there is a part of me that really, really wants to watch.

                  For me it has the mark of a good horror story, it made me think and it made me scared.

                  The way in which King builds the story up and makes your use your own imagination is perfect as different parts of the story will affect different people. It cleverly probes the shadows of the human heart--and the insular evils of small-town America. The use of modern(ish) day America is very clever as it puts the reader in a sense of security that is even more terrifying.

                  I am not normally a fan of the vampire genre but this is one of those that for me manages to cross the line from stereotypical bore, to scary gore. Which when you know that King got the idea from the original Dracula story, shows what a talented writer he is as he has made the story his own.

                  My advice is, if you like Stephen King then read this, even if vampires are not your thing.

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                    19.10.2001 05:28
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                    One of my favourite Stephen King books. After 25 years Ben Mears returns to the small town of 'Salem's Lot hoping for some peace and quiet to write and get over his wife's death, but something evil has taken root in the shadows and will stop at nothing to satisfy it's hunger. Written in 1975 'Salem's Lot is a great introduction into the world of Stephen King for anyone who's interested in trying on his work for size. At 439 pages long it's just the right size for a good read and manages to maintain it's pace and interest right to the end. By the time I bought the paperback in 1987 it was already in its fourteenth impression. Stephen King has once again managed to create not only central characters for you to care about, but a whole town full of interesting people, and as the tension rises you'll find yourself looking behind you, just in case. It's also one of the few Stephen King books that has been made into a successful television film and during a storm, this scene from the film, but especially from the book, always finds me unconsciously straining to hear if there's a scratching at my window: "Something had awakened him. He lay still in the ticking dark, looking at the ceiling. A noise. Some noise. But the house was silent. There it was again. Scratching. Mark Petrie turned over in bed and looked through the window and Danny Glick was staring in at him through the glass, his skin grave-pale, his eyes reddish and feral…" . - ' 'Salem's Lot' by Stephen King. Paperback edition 1987. ISBN 0-450-03106-3. But if you really want to get to grips with the Lot you'll just have to beg borrow or steal the book.

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                  • Product Details

                    Thousands of miles away from the small township of Salem's Lot, two terrified people, a man and a boy, still share the secrets of those clapboard houses and tree-lined streets. They must return to Salem's Lot for a final confrontation with the unspeakable evil that lives on in the town.